Breaking down potential lineups for the 2022-23 Boston Celtics

·5 min read

Last year Boston Celtics head coach Ime Udoka relied heavily on a shortened rotation down the final stretch of the 2021-22 regular season and into the 2022 NBA Playoffs. Sure, the Celts were hugely successful in that time, but the roster didn’t allow much allow in the way of flexibility or injury insurance in a season where COVID still loomed.

Looking ahead to the ’22-23 season, though, and things look different. With the addition of players like Malcolm Brogdon and Danilo Gallinari, suddenly Udoka’s depth chart is almost an embarrassment of riches. Assuming full health, the Celtics have a ton of lineup possibilities to play with.

So what five-man groups will Udoka use? (Or should use?) Until training camp and the preseason, we can’t really know for sure. But for now, let’s predict some of the best Celtics lineups ahead of the ’22-23 season.

The starters

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Jayson Tatum

PF: Al Horford

C: Rob Williams

At the time of this writing, there’s no reason to suspect Udoka will tinker with his starting line up from last season. It helped propel the team into the upper echelon of NBA defenses and should be just as effective moving forward.

Because Horford is reportedly set to sit out on the second night of back-to-backs, expect Grant Williams to find his way into the starting lineup. (There’s also a world where Brogdon starts, sliding Tatum to the defacto power forward position.)

From here on out, however, we’ll assume Horford is available for any hypothetical lineup, as he presumably would be for big games and the postseason.

The closers

(Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Malcolm Brogdon

SF: Jaylen Brown

PF: Jayson Tatum

C: Al Horford

Now, a bit about this line up is match-up dependent. If Boston has just experienced 43 minutes of sheer dominance by Giannis Antetokounmpo or Joel Embiid at the rim, perhaps Udoka goes big. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Still, the Celtics struggled offensively in the postseason and Finals. A dearth of playmaking and an overabundance of turnovers cost Boston dearly. Adding veteran Malcolm Brogdon to the fold here should help.

Marcus Smart may have earned the starting point guard position, but he still needs support in truly orchestrating an offense. Brogdon may be a bit of a defensive liability, but what he offers offensively can’t be ignored. For now, though, it seems fair to assume that Boston’s newest sixth man will be on the court to close games.

Shooting lineup

(AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

PG: Payton Pritchard

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Jayson Tatum

PF: Grant Williams

C: Al Horford

Having just lost to the Golden State Warriors, it feels appropriate that Boston may be daydreaming about its own splashy approach to the game. And the Celtics quietly have some of the more reliable shooters in the league. Udoka could go five wide and really open the offense up.

Last season Payton Pritchard shot 41.2% from three, just a shade above Grant Williams’ 41.1%. Both guys can be deadly from behind the arc as needed. Tatum and Brown are reliable shooters in their own right.

Al Horford, meanwhile, shot a blistering 48% from three during the ’22 postseason. The Godfather decidedly earned a role on the shooting line up. Sam Hauser and Luke Kornet in theory may also be up for consideration here.

Defense lineup

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Jayson Tatum

PF: Al Horford*

C: Rob Williams

Boston hung its hat on defense last year in a big way to great success. The team’s scheme of switching everything bamboozled opponents, and was only made possible by the club’s specific personnel.

As such, the presumptive starting five for Boston is also its likely best defensive unit moving forward. The only caveat here is that Grant Williams’ unbelievable defense during the postseason could see him sneak into this line up.

Playing big

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

PG: Malcolm Brogdon

SG: Jaylen Brown

SF: Jayson Tatum

PF: Al Horford

C: Rob Williams

Malcolm Brogdon is sneaky tall at 6′ 5″ but it’s his wingspan that really puts him into the big line up. Brogdon reportedly has a wingspan of 6′ 10″. This decidedly gives him the size advantage over players like Derrick White and Marcus Smart here.

If Udoka really wanted to get wild, he could bump Tatum to the backcourt and bring in 6’10” Danilo Gallinari on the wing. The offense might get a little crowded in this scenario, but goodness gracious would a switch-heavy defense with this much length be a sight to behold.

 

Going small

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

PG: Marcus Smart

SG: Payton Pritchard

SF: Malcolm Brogdon

PF: Jaylen Brown

C: Jayson Tatum

We haven’t really seen Ime Udoka tinker with a hyper-small lineup, at least not yet. But if Boston really wanted to get out and run, this is the way to do it.

By some measure, Jayson Tatum is right there with – or perhaps a cut above – players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant. James and Durant have both spent reasonable time at the five when their respective clubs have sought to go small and emphasize size, spacing, and shooting. Tatum could follow this mold.

This lineup allows a ton of playmaking and gives Boston an opportunity to get out and run. The Celtics didn’t rely on the fast break very much in ’21-22, but on nights where Al Horford sits and Luke Kornet isn’t getting it done, perhaps Udoka will do away with a traditional center altogether.

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Story originally appeared on Celtics Wire